Surprising Flames begin homestand vs. lowly Sabres

( - The Calgary Flames resume their playoff push on Tuesday night when they kick off a six-game homestand against the NHL's basement dwellers, the Buffalo Sabres.

The surprising Flames own a one-point lead over the Los Angeles Kings for the second wild card position in the Western Conference and are just two points back of the third-place Vancouver Canucks in the Pacific Division. Calgary has not made the playoffs since 2009.

The Flames were hoping to carry a nice-sized winning streak into the All-Star break, but instead had a four-game run halted with a 6-3 road loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday despite forward Sean Monahan scoring for a fourth game in a row.

Joe Colborne and Mikael Backlund also lit the lamp, but Joni Ortio's fifth straight start ended less than 10 minutes into the second frame as he allowed four goals on 11 shots. Jonas Hiller made 13 saves on 14 shots faced in relief.

"We were just not getting the breaks today," Ortio said. "We had some good chances, an open net and it just wasn't going our way tonight."

Ortio had gotten the call in each game since getting recalled from the minors when Karri Ramo sustained an upper-body injury. However, Ortio was assigned to back to the American Hockey League before the break and Hiller will start tonight.

Hiller has not started a game since giving up six goals on 35 shots in a loss to Florida on Jan. 9. He is 3-2-0 lifetime versus the Sabres with a 3.02 goals against average and .888 save percentage.

The Sabres resume a string of five straight on the road having lost a club- record 11 straight games in regulation. They are 1-14-1 in their past 16 games and last in the NHL with 31 points.

Buffalo appeared in position to snap its skid on Jan. 18 in its final game before the break, taking a three-goal lead over Detroit in the first period. However, the Red Wings netted the next five goals and ended up winning a 6-4 decision.

Tyler Ennis notched two goals and an assist in defeat, while Chris Stewart and Drew Stafford also scored. Jhonas Enroth yielded all six goals on 26 shots faced.

"That first period, we were proactive. We went on the attack," Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers told his team's website. "We kind of had a 'no respect' look to our team that we hadn't had in a while and come in the second, it seemed like we gave them too much respect after that."

Defenseman Nikita Zadorov had two assists versus the Red Wings, but is not expected play tonight as the Sabres suspended him for his failure to report to the team on time following the All-Star break.

Sabres general manager Tim Murray said that he expects the 19-year-old Zadorov, who missed Monday's practice, to join the club during its upcoming road trip through western Canada.

Buffalo will visit Edmonton and Vancouver following this game before wrapping this trip in Montreal.

The Sabres also are without goaltender Michal Neuvirth, who sustained a lower- body injury while working out during the break, but captain Brian Gionta is expected to be in action tonight after missing the previous 13 games with an upper-body ailment.

Matt Hackett, meanwhile, was recalled from the minors to back up Enroth, who is 2-0-1 with a 1.99 GAA and .941 save percentage in three career encounters with the Flames.

Enroth made 42 saves in a 4-3 victory at home over the Flames on Dec. 11, with Matt Moulson scoring twice and Ennis recording three assists.

Monahan had a goal for the Flames and Ramo made 15 saves in defeat.

Calgary has won four straight at home in this series, with Buffalo not picking up a road win over the Flames since Oct. 18, 2003.